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Singapore to block internet access for its public servants from 2017

From May 2017, most of Singapore’s public servants will not be able to access the internet from their workstations

As online security threats deepen globally, the government of Singapore is taking unprecedented steps to secure its assets and infrastructure from security attacks and data breaches.

To beef up security for government assets, the Singapore government is not only considering a new cyber security law, but is also taking steps to disconnect its staff workstations from the internet.

According to a report in The Straits Times, the government recently announced that its public service officers would no longer be accessing the internet from their work terminals from May 2017.

This rule will apply to all public service officers across all government agencies, ministries and statutory boards in the country. This will affect nearly 100,000 computer terminals.

However, public servants will still be able to access the internet through their personal devices that are not linked to the government e-mail systems. Their workstations will also remain connected to the government’s Intranet. The officers will be able to send their work emails to their private accounts, if required.

Government sources have also said officers who need internet access for their work will be issued separate computers for such use.

According to an Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) spokesperson, this unusual step is meant to plug “potential leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats”.

IDA, the government agency that is leading this initiative, has been trialling this with some employees in the agency since April 2016.

Read more about cyber security in the Asean region

“The Singapore government’s decision to delink the internet from their mailing system have been strongly instigated by the threat of infosecurity attacks,” said Glen Francis, president of the CIO Academy Asia (CIOAA) in Singapore.

“CIOAA feels that such a move is necessary provided we do not sit back and pretend to have a false sense of being safe. We should continue to step up our never-ending efforts to combat such threats with new policies, education and innovative solutions.”

Bill Taylor-Mountford, vice-president for Asia-Pacific at LogRhythm, said: “Internet access is a point of entry for attackers. Therefore, by cutting access to the Internet, you are essentially blocking one path of attack.”

“Singapore continues its journey being a smart nation, and this delink does not mean it has stopped or reversed its plan,” added Francis at CIOAA. “Instead it’s an example of how to be smart and secure.”

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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It's (relatively) easy to understand the impetus behind this and it will probably have limited success in the short term, but prohibition has never had a good record of success or adoption or, ultimately, approval. Slippery slope to where...? 
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